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25.03.2016, 11:51
Rotation, defence and a shouting coach are key
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INTERVIEW: Löwen left back Mads Mensah Larsen is aware of Zagreb, but still dreams to make it to Cologne once again.
 

Rotation, defence and a shouting coach are key

Mads Mensah Larsen had a one goal advance (24:23) in his bag when he returned from Zagreb to Mannheim. The base to make it to the quarter-final of the VELUX EHF Champions League looks quite positive for the Danish international and for Rhein-Neckar Löwen prior to the Last 16 rematch on Easter Sunday.

But the 24-year-old left back is aware of HC PPD Zagreb’s strength, even in away games. Mensah Larsen (father from Ghana, mother from Denmark) arrived from Aalborg Handball in the summer of 2014, together with his coach Nikolaj Jacobsen - after both became Danish champions.

In the 2011/12 season, the EHF EURO 2014 and World Championship 2013 silver medallist had his first appearance in the VELUX EHF Champions League. He was part of the famous AG Kobenhavn squad along Mikkel Hansen, with whom he still shares the left back position in the Danish national team.

ehfCL.com: After the narrow win at Zagreb, how do you rate the rematch on home court?

Mads Mensah Larsen: It’s just half-time, the first leg was fully equal and we only have a one goal advantage - there’s nothing more to add.

ehfCL.com: Zagreb are supposed to be stronger on home ground than in away matches - have Löwen already sealed the deal?

Mads Mensah Larsen: Not in any case. We only have a very small advantage after winning the away match. So we have to give 100% as Zagreb are strong enough to win the second leg, even away.

ehfCL.com: What will be the key to succeed next Sunday?

Mads Mensah Larsen: We have to cope with Zagreb’s strong 3-2-1 defence in a better way, as we had some problems with it in the first leg. Definitely, the match will be decided in defence.

ehfCL.com: How important is the role of the spectators in Mannheim?

Mads Mensah Larsen: Highly important, as we all experienced at Zagreb. I hope that some more fans will come compared to our previous Champions League matches in Frankfurt. But as we play in Mannheim and everyone knows the significance of this game, I expect a huge support.

ehfCL.com: One year ago, Löwen gave the quarter-final ticket from their hands against MOL Pick-Szeged - what are you doing better this year?

Mads Mensah Larsen: Szeged were the better team in both matches and they took both Last 16 victories well deserved. Now, we already have one win on our tally and we are aiming to win the second leg, too.

ehfCL.com: The Rhein-Neckar Löwen are still juggling in three competitions at once - what relevance does the Champions League have compared to Bundesliga and German Cup?

Mads Mensah Larsen: For me personally, Champions League is the top of the tops you can win. But I also know that our club put a special focus on Bundesliga, as it is our daily business. I simply hope that at the end of the season we can at least raise one trophy.

ehfCL.com: As a young player of AG Kobenhavn you already took part in the VELUX EHF FINAL4 2012 in Cologne. Is it one of your major dreams to make it there again?

Mads Mensah Larsen: It was a sensational experience to be in Cologne. I really hope to relive those emotions and experiences again.

ehfCL.com: As he was your coach at Aalborg already, you know Nikolaj Jacobsen better than all of your team mates. What is his style of coaching and especially rotating?

Mads Mensah Larsen: We simply have to rotate that much, as we have such an incredibly tense schedule. Other teams have a deeper squad and thus have advantages. You cannot play for 60 minutes in every single match, this is impossible.

Nikolaj is a really good coach, but if you don’t know him, he might scare you, when he is shouting from the bench. But he always wants to have the optimum for all players and his team, as he always wants to win. When he shouts, maybe he is only a little bit sad, when things are not working the way he wants them to (laughs).

ehfCL.com: How do you rate your current role in the Löwen team?

Mads Mensah Larsen: My first year in Germany was not easy - it was a new country, a new league, a new language and a new club. But now everything fits much better, I definitely made a step forward. I get more chances to play and then I take more responsibility. Therefore, I am really satisfied with how things are now.


TEXT: Björn Pazen / es, cor
 
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